Over the years, I've written time and again about my love for Hops Inn. It was one of Dundalk's best bars — a real gem.
So it was with great sorrow when I learned a few weeks ago that owner Lee Martin was slain in a shooting outside Hops Inn. Martin's wife, Jaclyn, and three others were charged in the killing.
While I never met Martin face to face, we spoke over the phone in the past. The bar, which apparently doubled as his house, had been in Martin's family for generations, he once told me.
As a result of Martin's death, Hops Inn has been closed until further notice, and the future of this long-standing Dundalk watering hole is uncertain. I hope Hops stays open, though it's unlikely it will be anything like it once was.
I've been to Hops only twice — both on the same night. My visits were during the first Dundalk Bar Crawl, in the summer of 2008. Walking into Hops, I felt as if I'd stepped back into 1988. Oddly enough, black-and-white portraits of every president dating back to George Washington hung on the wood-paneled walls. My friends and I put Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" on the box, which got the other guys in the place singing along.
We had a round of beers, and then left to visit some other Dundalk bars. But none of them compared to Hops, where we found ourselves at the end of the night. The bartender, who looked like a biker mama, brought us a round of free shots. Then one of my friends, J.M. Giordano, spotted a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue behind the bar. This stuff goes for $20 a glass at most Baltimore bars.
At our request, the bartender checked out the bottle, which had a hand-written label on the back of it: $3. We quickly ordered a round.
Last year, I found out Hops had raised the price to $9 a shot, which is still much cheaper than I've seen it anywhere else. Without Hops, Dundalk is missing a part of its nightlife scene.
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